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What We Can Learn About Productivity From Subway

2017 was the year the Subway branch store of nearly 27,000 stores strong in the US in 2016 plummeted to 25,835 by the end of 2017. Today we’ll look into some of the causes of that, but also how we can use this news to increase our own productivity in our own lives.

Credit: iStock by Getty images

Subway is in deep water.

A behemoth of a store chain is now slowly on the decline thanks to a series of major mistakes.

From a source of fresh foods that many American’s enjoy to now a nearly forgettable store, Subway will be just that if they continue down this path.

I’ll be talking about why it’s crumbling in just a little bit.

But one thing that I know best is instead of soaking up all the bad news, let’s start asking ourselves what can we learn from this?

What can we learn about Subway crumbling?

Specifically, what sort of productive things can we learn from this crumbling store chain?

For those who aren’t familiar with the problems that Subway faces here’s an article that goes into detail with them. From this article we can pull out a variety of themes and actually tie them into a productive act.

Something that we can use whether it’s running our business better or our lives in general.

The major problems that Subway has faced are these:

  • Fresh foods ordered less;
  • New sandwiches are a rarity, plus the new sandwiches are not bold or out of the ordinary;
  • The retirement of the $5 foot-long promo;
  • A sex offender who happened to be the former spokesman of Subway;
  • And stubborn executives with so many locations.

So how can we turn those into productivity hacks? Simple.

Let’s begin.

Don’t Cut Corners

The first issue is Subway is ordering their foods less often. It’s not where the food is coming from. As the business insider reports, Subway still goes and deals with local farmers in the area for their suppliers.

The issue is the frequency.

What used to be twice per week is now only once. And that does put a damper on the freshness of the food.

One franchisee goes out of their way to even tell the company that the lettuce after a week is like chewing on paper.

How we can learn from this is the simple and obvious rule of not cutting corners.

In the end, cutting corners does help on the immediate short term. Subway is spending less money on quality products so they can put money into other things like marketing or more money for the executives.

But it’s that kind of tactic that makes people angry and frustrated for obvious reasons.

Not to mention doing this long term will only plunge your business and your life into further chaos.

It’s actually more productive to spend more time doing something the right way as opposed to cutting corners so you can save more money.

It’s actually counter productive to be cutting corners even though in our heads, cutting corners may sound appealing.

For Subway if their true goal is to make more money to pay their executives in the end, it makes more sense to make better sandwiches. Yes it’s costly up front, but you can potentially earn more and stick around longer.

Again, don’t try to reduce the time by skipping steps. Focus on your craft, you’ll improve your speed that way.

When Change Happens, Make It Meaningful

Subway used to have a good assortment of sandwiches, but much like the egg salad sandwich they used to serve, the menu now generally looks unappealing.

Even though Subway is relatively open to change as they show off their rotisserie style chicken sandwich/panini/wrap at almost every chance they get, it’s not anything crazy.

I’ve seen the ad several times and am I interested in it?

Not really.

And I am someone who goes to Subway on an infrequent basis.

What I’m getting at is the change they are making isn’t impactful. Clearly a lot of people don’t care about it. Not to mention there are now more businesses that are taking off thanks to Subway’s blunders.

There’s now a store called Sweetgreens that makes salads with fresh fruits and veggies. They get those fruits and veggies delivered daily.

It’s one thing to be open to change, but it’s another to put out something that changes others perception of you for the better.

Subway needs to be bold with their changes. But when we make a change in our lives, it needs to be bold as well.

Not necessarily crazy bold, but bold enough that we’ll notice a difference in ourselves and others will notice it too.

How this translates to productivity is the concept of asking yourself how can you improve a good system. There is always room for improvement and some times you need a bold step up.

Band-Aids Help, But Don’t Rely On Them

I wasn’t purchasing from subway when they rolled out the deal of $5 foot longs, but obviously people got upset when it was discontinued.

But good news. Starting this month, Subway is apparently rolling this promotion back out.

This can be good and bad for a few reasons. Bad in that this is a similar trend to what Sears, Winners, and JC Penney went through before they went belly up.

But it’s good in that we get our awesome deal back.

As the business insider post talks about though, many people are frightened by this as opposed to excited. This will give people the impression their sandwiches are low quality.

Especially if they are pushing this promotion for two whole months.

Not only that but the franchisees would be more at risk of losing money as opposed to getting more loyal customers.

By all means this deal is what people call “a band-aid solution.” This helps short-term but doesn’t solve the mess that is still there.

When it comes to being productive in our own lives, these band-aid fixes can be life savers for us. When we feel overwhelmed, some times we do need a temporary fix to our issues.

But it is dangerous to rely on them. Band-aids won’t stop a deep stab wound. Yes it might relieve some level of pain and kind of keep things together, but you need stitches and a doctors hand to really make it heal.

We’ve walked down this path before with Sears and their discounts and sales practically every week. This is a short term fix but the longer you use it the more people will expect the same thing.

They’ll think paying $10+ for a footlong and soup is a rip-off. Especially if you’ve been shoving $5 footlong promo down people’s throats.

If you do need a short term fix, by all means use it, but be clear to people and even to yourself that it’s temporary.

Build yourself back up until you are in a better position and then like any old band-aid, tear it off.

Disconnect From People Who Slow You Down

Jared Fogle was the spokesman for Subway and as soon as it was reported he was sex offender and possessed child porn, Subway distanced themselves from him.

Subway has yet to find another spokesperson, which is a problem in it’s own way, but Subway did make a good move in disassociating itself with Fogle.

Obviously anyone would in their right mind remove people who make them look bad in that sort of setting.

However people are very quick to associate themselves with people who make them feel stuck or unvalued.

We might not all have sex offenders in our network, but we do have people who would otherwise slow us down or depress us. That does dampen productivity as we under perform because we don’t think we are worth it.

In those kinds of cases it’s more productive to remove those people from our lives. Ideally physically by drifting apart and seeing one another less.

If it’s a family member or someone that you can’t remove then it’ll be mentally blocking them.

Either way when someone in your life is slowing you down, disconnect from them however you can.

Don’t Be Predictable And Spread Yourself Out Too Much

One of the big reasons Subway has so many stores is thanks to the late Fred DeLuca’s obsession with expansion.

I said Subway was a behemoth and I’m not joking.

Even with stores on the decline, Subway still has over 25,000 locations in the US alone.

Their competition, McDonalds, has 14,000 locations in the US and 35,000 worldwide.

Even though those numbers are impressive on Subway, Subway has become quite predictable and is the perfect example of what sort of problems you’ll face when you expand.

Even though Subway is a well identified brand and people know what to expect, spreading yourself out that much has issues.

The major one is you’ll have your own stores competing against one another.

Much like with spreading yourself thin in your own business, you’ll have many tasks demanding your attention and no time at all to complete it all.

It becomes a major source of our stress as we won’t be able to handle everything.

Not only will stretching ourselves out stress out, it also makes us predictable.

One advantage about a business is that we have the ability to be unpredictable. Yes we’ll remain focused on a specific niche, however even with that we can be unpredictable.

As a writer, even though I write about self improvement, productivity, and developing a positive mindset, we know there are many facets in those topics. I could write about a lot of things and no one knows what I’ll publish next.

I bet the last thing people were thinking about was me writing about Subway.

But unlike myself, the executives of Subway seem to be following a very predictable path. Or at least those in charge of making decisions.

They’ve spread themselves out and focused solely on expansion as opposed to improving the depth of their business, i.e. their sandwich menu.

I’d say the only thing that’s really out there is my favourite sandwich: Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki.

The rest are unimaginative and typical in sandwich shops and even grocery stores.

It’s this blandness that makes even their new sandwiches less appealing. We’ve begun to tell ourselves that Subway, unlike it’s slogan, isn’t fresh, isn’t new, and has no redeeming qualities over the competition.

Start up companies are even picking up the slack where Subway has made major mistakes.

To top it off with the $5 foot long promo they’ll roll out, it’s clear what fate Subway will have should they continue with this path.

My point is, with your business and life, don’t be predictable and do too much all at once. We aren’t multitaskers.

Focus on a few things at a time, get them right, and then expand. Whether that’s adding more tasks, or even going to the next task or goal you already set up.

Try This

Take these productivity tips in mind. Yes they are plain and simple.

However what Subway is doing goes to show that even a massive organization that has hundreds of thousands of employees and over 25,000 stores in the US can forget the basics.

Being a massive company that’s been around since 1965 doesn’t shield you from common sense and the basics.

In fact, it makes a company look worse when they don’t follow it.

Don’t be like Subway and forget about the basics.

To your growth!

Eric S Burdon

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Eric S Burdon

Eric S Burdon

Entrepreneur, positive-minded. I used to say a lot, now I do a lot. Documenting my growth. Support me on Patreon:

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